To suppose coercion would go away without governments is foolish. Those who rail against tax collection forget that if there were no large government, small governments would quickly take over. Instead of paying taxes, we’d pay protection money to the local gangsters. Then, over time, one gang would centralize power and eventually grow into a state that collects taxes. We’d be right back where we started.
One of the hard facts of being human is all our societies are founded on parasitism. Since the foundation of agricultural settlements most people have lived in poverty while a small, dominant group extracted tribute from everyone else.
Before farming, there may not have been parasitism on the same scale, but those who got in the way of the strong were simply killed instead.
There’s never been a paradise because a tough grind with high attrition has always been the normal state of the natural world. Humans are just another animal in the wild.
To change this state of affairs we’d have to transcend the trap of natural selection which thrives on scarcity and suffering to select ourselves instead.
Since transhumanism will remain science fiction for some time to come, it remains incumbent on anyone who wants to change anything to find ways to identify and enfranchise the best people and mitigate the damage done by the worst.
For the individual human, it is impossible to change the nature of billions of people, it is reasonable perhaps to form tribes of those with similar temperament and create within that sphere the world they wish to see, and that sphere finally formed, devise a means of its further transmission.
10 replies on “All Mass Societies Are Built on Coercion”
[…] All Societies Are Built on Coercion […]
This really isn’t entirely true for most of human history. Modern man has been around I dunno 100,000 years or so and for most of that, the most important work in getting protein and in defense fell to the big men and they were rewarded accordingly. That is by no means parasitism.
Also they rarely ruled by terror either. They didn’t have shelter away from everyone else and one hunting accident or just one angry person while they slept or were sick or some less than safe herbs in dinner and they’d be no more.
Life was precarious and people had to work together or die together,
Agriculture allows for parasitism on a mass scale since the state could create a vast vast power differential and the few could use that to get what they wanted.
Modernity is well, this to the exponent.
To an extent Communists and Transhumanists alike are trying to have the material advantages we have brought into that cooperative ancient model.
Its probably futile though,a large subset of humans hunger for status as much as anything, preferably without responsibility. Basically they are addicts. An egalitarian society especially one with string anti-manipulation safeguards would thwart them. I suspect powerful would rather glass the planet and rule over a dead world than allow that to happen.
We are by no means there but in theory an AI driven society with anti-status seeking protocols could treat this as insanity and respond accordingly . How that would happen in the 1st place or what the results would be I leave to SF authors though is suspect it would create a mouse utopia and result in human extinction.
Hunter gather/small scale farming/semi-nomadic, existence is no utopia. The gross injustices of mass societies are not possible, but chances of dying violently are very high in these cultures. In-groups may be tight with strict rules, but out-groups are often fair game and blood feuds persist for generations. I suppose if you’re one of the successful survivors, quality of life is higher than for a peasant who enjoys police protection but has only bread to eat.
I suppose those who want power the most pursue it most eagerly and make the most sacrifices to get it. The system gets what it selects for. The problem has always been “who watches the watch dogs?”
A computer program seems like it might be a way to bypass humans, but I’m not so sure.
Who programs the program? Who’s in charge of saying what should be in the program? Who debugs, maintains, and updates the code? Are there ways to disable the program if it ever malfunctions? Who then has the power to do this? These would be normal fallible people constantly offered billions of dollars to slip in protocols to favor one group over another.
And if these were to be special, incorruptible people, who finds and appoints them?
So long as the root problem is in the nature of most people, there’s no solution. First, the people must change.
I figure people will start to mitigate the worst abuses by splitting off into smaller groups with higher trust. Instead of changing the population at large, we just limit who we associate with.
Not wrong Giovanni but in-group injustice is measurably more harmful to the human psyche than out-group injustice or the vicissitudes of nature.
Also hunter gathers aren’t as violent as most people think, the cultures displaying the extreme levels of violence like the Yanomami are foraging horticulturalists which in some ways is a combination of the worst traits of agrarian society and hunter-gather society. They are quite fixed to a single location.
Also while I would not trade places with them, many hunter-gathers had decent enough lives. They certainly died earlier but unlike moderns they had tradition, family and ample time to enjoy life.
Violence or not, I’d bet these people were measurably happier than many moderns
Working a few hours a day at meaningful work is not a bad way to be. We moderns are slaves to complexity and have to beg and plead to have time enough to enjoy all the junk we produce.
heck Medieval people worked less than we do and were guaranteed more time off buy the church as well. And yes they worked brutally hard in spurts, harvest especially sucked but they were mostly proud of who they were, what they did and were far less mentally ill than us.
We moderns are basically forced to work up to 4 hours a day for up to 50 years just to pay for the “technology” that makes life “better” .
So yeah, the hunters gathers may live to say 45 , he has spent a lot more time enjoying his life than any modern person ever will. He doesn’t have to pay huge amount of tax to feed foreigners or build airports only rich people use or build doomsday weapons for “defense”
It makes for example little rational sense to put in 40-50 hours a week to buy stuff you never use, eat unhealthy food and stare at a screen for 12 hours a day which is what a lot of people do.
Worse we in the modern world are so busy and so unhappy we aren’t having children.
If we were zoo animals our keepers would be fired frankly. How we get to a healthier society is beyond my pay grade though. My guess is it will be post collapse. When we run out of resources to easily exploit, we will let the natural process of simplification do its thing.After all that’s all what collapse is, forced simplification
A few generations down the line if anyone is left and the survivors will build a healthier working society.
As for the AI issue, once built it will program itself probably by genetic algorithms. If we are smart though we’ll never make one, Such a thing would probably end up destroying us.
I would guess you’re right that the out-group violence is less traumatic to humans because it comes naturally to our species. In-group injustice, though, strikes us as the most unnatural sort of perversion, and being helpless to do anything about it is traumatizing.
I do not see unjust mass rulers as part of my group, I do not care about nations. Yet one of the signature traits of proledom is to revere the rulers, the rich, the celebrities, the big brands, the nation… It’s possible they’ve simply been bred for obedience through the pressures of attrition?
Based on one blog post I found about an article by Pinker, it appears the foraging horticulturalists are more violent than hunter gatherers, but most non-state, non-settled people are still way more violent on average than people in states. It showed a 25% violent death rate for the horticulturalists, 15% for hunter gatherers, 5% at the highest for agricultural civilizations.
Granted, it’s just one piece of information, mostly from one academic I’m a bit suspicious of, but it seems consistent with the overall picture I’m getting.
Many of the things you say I agree with. I too do not see 40+ hours a week every week for a lifetime to acquire basic comforts as a functional society. We may live with far less fear of violence, but a worthwhile life must also have quality. I have indeed observed in many countries outside of the US that people seem happier and less rushed despite having less wealth, corrupt rulers, and many problems they must deal with.
And, as you say, it’s damning that the relentless work of modern civ is so taxing that it displaces children and family.
Hard to say what would be worse, living in constant fear of ambush and murder or the safe grey nothing of endless repetitive labor to make someone else rich, surrounded by hated competitor co-workers most of the time instead of clan and family.
Believe me, it bothers me when someone says “But even the poorest have TVs and microwaves now. They’re better off than the kings of old.” I feel sad they see these trinkets as replacements for power and autonomy. Better the king of a cave than a slave in a palace.
From reading about Amazon tribes the problem from hunter gatherer all the way up to the most complex society is assholes. In the Amazon an anthropologist asked why people lived in larger groups with an asshole for a leader. They said the leader would attack all the smaller groups, which was how they really wished to live. So they had to bundle into larger groups to keep from being killed. Along with the larger groups it seemed always came an asshole.
Yes, we find ourselves compelled to live in mass societies because we know other groups will take advantage if our group is weak and small. It’s the cruel outcome of an old game. The cooperator ends up at the mercy of the defector, so every group defects to survive.
I have a saying: “The main motivation for nationhood is the fear of other nations.”
I’ve noticed recently that organizations both larger and smaller than nation states are becoming more important. For instance, under the protection of the larger E.U. there’s an increase of popularity of separatist groups within European nations. Or if we look at how borders become less relevant in a worldwide economy, nations become less important.
A world of mutually assured destruction for powerful assholes actually may give new forms of organization a chance.
I’ve always found it tragic that humans have figured out spacecraft but have never made a single advance in the basic ideas of how people live and organize.
Even the engineers who made the spacecraft were just hired stooges of their local dukes and barons.
FORWARD BASE B
“Pay my troops no mind; they’re just on a fact-finding mission.”
Sorry. I found it in about. Duh.
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